Blessing Rwizi Farming Correspondent
HONEY farmers in Ward Four of Chipinge District are facing threats from ants that colonised their beehives, prior to the beginning of the rainy season.
This resulted in the honeybees vacating the beehives, thereby reducing honey production in Birirano area.
Small-scale farmers in Birirano area were capacitated to venture into the lucrative commercial honey bee farming together with Musani and Tanganda farmers in March last year by World Vision.
The move was taken to improve livelihoods in these areas and the project’s rich pickings attracted more than 20 farmers in Birirano over the past year.
World Vision trained farmers on the good practice of apiculture as well as sourcing timber from sawmills in Chimanimani for the construction of the beehives.However, for effectiveness’ sake, following the ants invasions, World Vision agriculture officer, Mr Freddy Murimoga, said the number of farmers had been reduced from 21 to 10.
“We have had a challenge on how to get rid of these ants since we cannot use pesticides. The project relies on the natural reaction of the farmers themselves. The sites where farmers locate the bee hives are not easy to access, but we have so far gathered farmers to discuss on how to clean their hives and attract back the bees.
For the project’s effectiveness, we have slashed the number of farmers to 10 at the moment, but once things go back to normal, we will move on to Stage Two where others will be allowed to join,” said Mr Murimoga.“Ants are attracted to the sugar-water feed and the honey in the hives and if left uncontrolled, they will destroy the hives. It is therefore important for farmers to frequently visit the hives so that they will be able to quickly respond to any ant invasion.
It is important to make sure that the vegetation is mowed around the beehive as ants normally take any advantage available to enter the hive. Tall blades of grasses are just the bridge they like,” he said.
A beekeeper or apiarist is the farmer who keeps bees in order to collect their honey and other products that the hive produces (including beeswax, propolis, pollen, and royal jelly), to pollinate crops, or to produce bees for sale to other beekeepers. A location where bees are kept is called an apiary or “bee yard”.
Honey bee farming is quite interesting and is one of the most enjoyable types of businesses in the three communities, but of late was nearing collapse due to lack of capital, education and market linkage.
The honey bee extracts honey from its natural surroundings and then converts it into a product that is consumable. In addition, honey bees help to pollinate the vegetables and fruits in one’s area.
Statistics reveal that Zimbabwe has the potential to producing 500 000 litres of honey per year. The current honey production levels is estimated at 70 000 from nearly 16 000 bee farmers across the country.